Together at last: Serbian government and business leaders join with Serbian Diaspora for 15th Annual Convention and 1st Business Conference
November 18, 2005
CONTACT: Andy Verich
LAS VEGAS - The Serbian Unity Congress (SUC) is pleased to announce the completion of its 15th Annual Convention, and its First Annual Business Conference, held in Las Vegas, Nevada November 11-13, 2005. The Serbian Business Conference was the first of its kind held in the United States of America since 1929.
Guests and attendees at the conference were able to browse exhibitions, listen to panels, and attend gala dinners honoring Serbian dignitaries. The guests included many Serbian officials and businessmen, including NBA basketball star and humanitarian, Vlade Divac. The SUC would especially like to thank all members of the Las Vegas Serbian Community and parish of St. Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church for their help in organizing the convention.
Over thirty Serbian companies had exhibitions, showcasing their programs and products. Officials from the Serbian Government included: Minister of Diaspora Dr. Vojislav Vukcevic, and Predrag Bubalo, Minister of Economics and Privatization, Milan Parivodic, Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, and Dr. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, Director of the Coordination Center for Kosovo and Metohija. There were also representatives on hand from USAID and its implementation partner at International Relief & Development (IRD).
Prime Minister Kostunica sent a warm welcome that was read by Professor Ljusic and President Tadic sent his best wishes via his special representative Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic.
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley sent special regards for the SUC, (read by Professor Michael Pravica), and Congressman John Porter, whose representative awarded the SUC a Commendation for its work. In addition, a video message was shown from Congresswoman Melissa Bean (Illinois, 8th District), who sent her best wishes to the SUC and convention guests.
Other special guests at the convention were the Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro, Ivan Vujacic, Desko Nikitovic, the Consul General of Serbia and Montenegro in Chicago, former US Ambassador to the Vatican, Thomas Patrick Melady, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Frederick Peterson III, Chief of OSCA in Kosmet, Tom Gambill, and dr. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic (special guest of Dr. Vojin Joksimovic from San Diego).
Some of our Serbian-American businessmen present included Alex Machaskee, publisher of “Plain Dealer”, the largest newspaper in Ohio, with over 1.5 million subscribers, Miroslav Djordjevic, Slobodan and Mira Pavlovic, Martin Selak, Dr. Bogdan Maglic, Dr Sveta Djurica and others.
In addition, there were panel discussions on the topic of Kosovo and Metohjia, moderated by Dr. Vojin Joksimovic, and about Serbian young people, moderated by Nevena Vujic. The panel on Kosovo and Metohija included Ambassador Melady, Lt. Col. Peterson, OSCA Chief Tom Gambill, Wanda Schindley and Dr. Raskovic-Ivic. The panel on Serbian youth included Victor Peneda, a handicapped student whose mother is Serbian and father is from Venezuela, who spoke about his work with handicapped students from USA, Cuba, and Serbia and Montenegro. Jelena Jovanovic, who is candidate for a Doctorate of Linguistics, who spoke about the importance of teaching native language, scientific studies about when is the best time to teach children a second language, and helping preserve the language of our ancestors. In addition Uros Adamovic spoke about problems of young people from Vienna, and compared it with the same problems of the youth in Serbia. And, Nada Miljkovic from California showed a documentary called “Two Villages, One Heart” presenting parallel stories about her “village” in California, and about a village in Serbia. This film has been submitted for consideration to the Sundance Film Festival.
The 15th Annual SUC Convention began November 11th, with presentations by the by Olga Danilovic (Vienna Office), Slavka Draskovic (Belgrade Office), Mirjana Samardzija and Andy Verich (Washington DC Office), Boba Stefanovic (Vancouver Chapter), and Risto Krstanovic (Detroit Chapter). All spoke about the importance of opening their local chapters of the SUC, and the impact it made on the local Serbian community.
A special part of this meeting was about the Diaspora taking a part in lobbying for their native country. The SUC had a very important experience in its role working with Serbian grassroots to expand the Congressional Serbian Caucus to 29 members of from the U.S. Congress who are very active in addressing issues that Serbs in Serb lands are facing today. Mirjana Samardzija and Andy Verich from Washington DC office spoke about the “Serbian Voice in Congress” and the important role all Serbs can take to make a difference.
For his humanitarian efforts, Vlade Divac was given the highest honor given by the SUC: The Serbian Medal Of Honor. To honor U.S. veterans, Ilija Lubalo recognized Serb American contributions as veterans and made special note of George Vujnovic, a former U.S. Army officer with a distinguished career during the Second World War and his role in coordinating operations that contributed to saving the lives of U.S. Airmen who were rescued by Serb Chetniks.
Many members of the Serbian media attended this event and published articles in Politika, Vecernje Novosti, Ogledalo from Chicago, Srbobran, Frankfurt’s News, RTS, TV Station 4S from Chicago, and had live reports by Chicago’s Serbian Radio and Radio Belgrade. Entertainment at the Gala Dinner was headlined by a stunning performance by folk dance group Avala. The dinner was very well attended with over 400 guests.